I’ve written before – and at length – about my sensitivity. About how at times, the world can be too big, too loud, too bright, too much. Last night I had a chat with my (also sensitive) firstborn about what it means to be an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person), to feel and absorb the energy of others, and to live in a heightened state of awareness. Talking to him, I realized I might sometimes make sensitivity sound like a negative thing. It isn’t. I believe with all my bleeding heart that sensitivity is a superpower. My Native American birth totem is the wolf, and I have always identified with that strongly. As a Pisces, empath, HSP, many of the traits are complimentary and parallel. Recently I’ve posted several articles on Facebook about being an introvert, and until I began to receive responses I didn’t truly understand just how different my experience is from “regular” folks. I decided to write down some positive aspects of being highly sensitive.
The title of this post is taken from a poem by Nikita Gill:
I am more wolf
and I am still learning
how to stop apologizing
for my wild.
Of course, this poem speaks to me on so many levels, but I thought it appropriate to include here.
Hearing: I hear everything, even from far away. From a roach’s footsteps on tile to the neighbors having a laugh down at the pool at midnight. I complain about it sometimes, because for sleeping (we live in an apartment complex) it’s not ideal. However, there’s a lot to be said for having sensitive hearing, and it has to do with more than just volume. For example, it means I like certain tones in music and voices. Some are sweet and melodic to me. (Alternatively, some are quite grating.)
I hear small things in nature, like sound of bees buzzing.
I like the sing-song way the actress Miranda Richardson says “ingenue” in the movie version of Phantom. Or the way Fanny Ardant’s Marie de Guise says just about anything.
Classical music (particularly piano, particularly Beethoven) and Opera moves me to tears.
Learning to music is easy for me, and as a child I taught myself facts like the Seven Deadly Sins to the tune of pop songs. I still remember them. (Hey, I grew up going to Catholic School, so there’s a lot of Scripture in my head.) I think being HSP is also a contributing factor to how meaningful song lyrics are to my listening experience. If I like a melody, but the words are stupid, I won’t keep listening. I like a song that’s deep, that is tragic or curious or whimsical or raw. Without that it seems pointless to me.
When I was a kid my grandfather called me a mimic because I was so good at accents and dialects. I impersonated George Bush and Michael Jackson for laughs. This comes in handy when learning language, as I am able to pick up pronunciation easily. I can also hear when someone’s tone of voice or inflection changes, even subtly.
Taste: It means I absolutely delight in food. Flavors, textures, temperatures. Sweet and savory, spicy and mellow. I frequently mix textures (ideally I’d do this with every meal) so that I can have crunchy, soft, chewy, warm, sweet and bitter and cool in the same bite.
Some foods are very comforting, like smooth dark chocolate, and I can discern the subtle differences between brands and percentages. I love a good soda for the bubbles and the way they tickle my tongue and cheeks before rolling down my throat. A warm, from scratch Belgian waffle disintegrating into sugar is one of my favorite sensations in life.
I like hot cinnamon tea on a cool Fall day and very cold ice cream (a certain kind, of course) in Summer. I appreciate a good burger more than my vocabulary will allow me to express.
Touch: The sun feels extra warm on my skin. I like the way it feels on my face, especially in the morning time. I can perceive the sun’s effect on my blood through my skin. The crunch of dry leaves underfoot when I walk barefoot on grass is lovely. The way sea water gently introduces itself to my legs each time I walk the beach, and the grittiness of sand between my toes makes me grin.
Sensations that others might take for granted – like being fully submerged in water, or sitting with friends next to a bonfire – are extremely pleasurable to me.
When I shop for clothing, I always try them on. They should look good, but I need them to feel good, too. If a material is smooth, soft, and I like the way it glides over my skin, I’ll buy it. I am particular about fabrics, linens, and especially blankets for this reason.
I like to touch everything. Walls, paintings, animals, the mail. I get information this way.
I need hugs and physical affection like some people need air.
Books have a certain feel. Especially old, hard-cover books. It makes my fingers tingle just thinking about it. One of my favorite things to do when I’m in a vintage book store is open a book and run my fingers over the type on the page. I also like to feel the edges, especially if they’re uneven.
Smell: My mom laughs because I say every person has a unique smell. I can smell people and I recognize them by scent. (Only today did I realize that she doesn’t understand it because she can’t do it.) I didn’t know other people don’t recognize natural scents, I thought this was something we all do. Smell is the scent most strongly tied to memory, and I am so fortunate that I can associate a myriad of smells to each of my loved ones.
I can tell when food is rotten, or when something is on fire from far away (this has come in handy more than once.)
No one appreciates a good essential oil like I do. I love a hot Epsom salt soak with some oils mixed in. I’m pretty sure I’m the only non-coffee drinker who likes to sit in coffee shops and inhale the aromas.
Sixth/Psychic: I am aware of energy shifts around me, so I can tell if some other entity is close. I have been in places where I knew something bad had happened and I physically couldn’t walk down the stairs. (I think this is good because it kept me from potential danger.) I have met people and known things about them immediately. I have dream visitations from deceased friends and loved ones. I am entangled and enmeshed with my loved ones. My grandmother calls me when I’m upset because she can feel it. My brother and I have had incredible moments of what would be called mind-reading. I know when people are lying, and my mother used to call me a Human Barometer, because I could tell her if a potential boyfriend was a good person or a bad person. Empathy. Compassion. Love. Off the charts. Animals like me, too, so that’s good. I like patterns and symmetry, I can see them a lot of times in nature, or art, or people.
This is by no means a comprehensive list, but definitely something I’ll put on my resume (should I ever have to write one). In Summary: HSP’s are Super Humans and sensitivity is an extraordinary gift. I will never apologize for someone else’s failure to understand.